Oleocanthal, also known as the “elixir of life,” is a polyphenol found in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). It has gained notoriety in the wellness community for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and neuroprotective effects.
There have been dozens of studies confirming that oleocanthal positively contributes to the treatment of chronic diseases, including degenerative joint disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
EVOO is a key component of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, and scientists speculate that it contributes in large part to the known cardiovascular and neurological benefits of the diet. Read on to learn about all the amazing health benefits of this super-compound.
Anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, oh my!
All of these long words can be a bit daunting. Let’s look at each, to see just how powerful this compound is.
1. Anti-inflammatory: This was the first superpower that scientists discovered. Researchers have shown that oleocanthal’s anti-inflammatory mechanism is similar to that of Ibuprofen. In fact, scientists now acknowledged it as a naturally occurring NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Based on this evidence, some scientists suggest that small daily doses of oleocanthal may contribute to significant reductions in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.
2. Antimicrobial: Antimicrobial agents destroy microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Oleocanthal has been shown to be effective against several dangerous microbes, including E. coli, Salmonella, H. pylori, and Staphylococcus.
3. Antioxidant: Antioxidants remove dangerous free radicals from the body, protecting tissue from the destructive process of oxidation. Oleocanthal has been shown to significantly reduce the quantity of NOX, an oxidative enzyme.
4. Anticancer: The anticancer activity of Oleocanthal has been well documented. It has been shown to destroy several cancers, including breast, prostate, liver, colon, and blood.
5. Neuroprotective: Oleocanthal has shown promising results in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists believe that the neurodegenerative effects of this disease are caused by the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques in the brain. Oleocanthal has been shown to degrade and remove amyloid beta from the brain, which prevents plaques from forming.
How does it kill cancer cells?
For a couple of decades, scientists have known that oleocanthal could inhibit cancer growth and cause certain cancers to self-destruct. Recently, researchers in NYC were able to show that oleocanthal induced cell death in all cancer cells examined, in as little as 30 minutes. They found that the compound was able to destabilize the membranes of lysosomes, ultimately killing the cell.
As I’m sure you remember from biology class, lysosomes are the “cleanup crew” of the cell. They contain powerful enzymes which they use to digest dead cell material. When cancer cells are exposed to oleocanthal, the membrane (or “wall”) of the lysosomes are broken down, and these powerful enzymes are free to run around the cell, digesting it from the inside out.
Wait, what about the healthy cells?
Excellent point, reader! Won’t healthy cells’ lysosomes be cracked open to wreak havoc?
Researchers found that when healthy cells were exposed to oleocanthal, they took a short nap and were soon back to their normal cell selves. This is likely because healthy cells tend to have stronger lysosomal membranes than cancerous cells.
While these findings are exciting, we’re not quite ready to dump all the chemo in the trash. To date, all published studies regarding oleocanthal and cancer have been conducted in test tubes. Before it can gain the FDA’s stamp of approval, it will have to be proven safe and effective in living mammals, and then in humans.
In the meantime, you may want to consider adding 2 tablespoons of EVOO to your daily health regimen. In addition to its cancer-fighting powers, the literature suggests that this practice may contribute to exercise recovery, cognitive function, and chronic disease prevention.
When picking out your EVOO, be sure to read the label carefully. Not all oils are created equally! “Early harvest” olive oils have the highest levels of polyphenols, including oleocanthal. The Greeks call this “agoureleo” or oil from the unripened olive. Only certain “high phenolic” olive oils, like this one, contain therapeutic levels of oleocanthal.
Many people have embraced high phenolic olive oil in their daily regimen, including Chef Maria Loi who works alongside Dr. Stefanos Kales at Harvard University to introduce the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in Americans’ everyday lives.
In a blog post where he revealed his own cancer diagnosis, Gregory Pappas shared how he has added the ancient Greek super food to his regimen.
It is best to consume your olive oil raw, as heating the oil to high temperatures may degrade some of the beneficial components. EVOO is a delicious addition to a fresh salad or a morning smoothie. Who knew such a tasty oil could be so powerful?
* This content is not intended to be medical advice, nor to diagnose or treat any condition. Please contact your physician before starting any new treatment *
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